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Critical worker shortage looms as Vancouver Island chases new housing

Cities trying to meet targets set out by the provincial government
Construction companies say there is a worker shortage. (Black Press Media file photo)

The B.C. government has tasked cities to approve new housing projects on a large scale to ease the affordability crisis.

But who will actually build them?

B.C. is facing a construction worker shortage, according to a new survey by the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA).

According to the survey, 77 per cent of Vancouver Island construction companies say they are short of workers. Meanwhile, 32 per cent of these same companies say they expect more work in 2024 than the previous year.

ICBA employers report that the average construction hourly wage will grow five per cent this year, and another six per cent in 2025. With these increases, in 2025, the industry’s average hourly wage – before any bonuses, benefits, profit-sharing or overtime – will reach $37.51, or about $78,000 annually, said a news release by the ICBA.

“Construction is dynamic, fast-paced, and rewarding – people wake up every day and go to a job site to build everything around us, creating inspiring legacies that shape our communities and the way we will live for generations,” said ICBA president Chris Gardner, who released ICBA’s annual Wage and Benefits Survey of its member companies on Jan. 8. “It’s a message we have to convey to young people in a more convincing way than we have in the past.”

READ MORE: Unprecedented construction needed in B.C. to offset record immigration: Report

Despite record levels of immigration, B.C. builders flag labour shortages of people (79 per cent of contractors say there aren’t enough skilled workers), as a major challenge.

Said Gardner: “Fewer than two per cent of permanent immigrants entering Canada pursue a construction trade, so as a country we are failing to identify the gaps in our economy and recruiting people to move to Canada with the skills to fill those gaps – we have to do better and quickly.”

Other major issues include supply chain constraints, and government red tape cited as major drags on their work – and this is driving up costs and impeding the efforts to tackle housing affordability.

“We have not moved the needle on housing supply for the past 50 years – we are building fewer homes today than we did in 1972. Reams of new regulations and convoluted approval processes have choked the supply we need to keep home prices affordable for first time homebuyers and young families,” said Gardner.

“All three levels of government need to stop the finger-pointing and working at cross-purposes, and collaborate meaningfully to fast track housing, cut red tape, and put in place practical policies that will make a real difference for home buyers.”

Chris Campbell

About the Author: Chris Campbell

I joined the Victoria News hub as an editor in 2023, bringing with me over 30 years of experience from community newspapers in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley
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